Tragic West Hartlepool family at centre of appeal

The four ration books which were unearthed by the Mail's recent move and once belonged to the Tibbles family.
The four ration books which were unearthed by the Mail's recent move and once belonged to the Tibbles family.

A family touched by tragedy is at the centre of a Memory Lane appeal for help.

Four post-war ration books once owned by John and Maud Tibbles, of West Hartlepool, were unearthed during the Mail’s recent move.

Elwick Road School., which the Tibbles attended.

Elwick Road School., which the Tibbles attended.

Now Mail archivist Susan Swinney is hoping to reunite the books with the Tibbles family - 65 years after they were first issued.

“The books could have ended up on the rubbish skip, but luckily we rescued them in time. They are little bits of history,” she said.

“Tibbles is an old Hartlepool name and hopefully we will be able to find the books a real home, rather than just keep them in storage.”

The Ministry of Food ration books were issued in 1950 to John Tibbles, his wife Maud and two young children - Jean and Christopher.

The books could have ended up on the rubbish skip, but luckily we rescued them in time. They are little bits of history. Tibbles is an old Hartlepool name and hopefully we will be able to find the books a real home, rather than just keep them in storage.”

Susan Swinney, photographic archivist for the Mail.

The family were living at 103 Elwick Road, West Hartlepool, at the time and shopped most often at Barnes Stores just down the street.

“Although the war was over, strict rationing was still in place. Eggs, sugar and cheese topped the Tibbles shopping list,” said Susan.

Archive documents reveal John Tibbles, son of stonemason and housebuilder John and his wife Jennie, was born in Hartlepool on July 15, 1905.

Tragedy first touched his family just before his birth however, when John’s older sister Violet died while still a toddler.

By the time of the 1911 Census the Tibbles family were living at 35 Topcliffe Street, West Hartlepool, and young John was a schoolboy.

Both he and his brothers, Thomas and Christopher - known as Kit - survived the First World War. More tragedy, however, was on the horizon.

“Their cousin, Ralph Tibbles, was killed in New York in 1923 and youngest brother Thomas died in 1930 - at the age of just 21,” said Susan.

“The eldest Tibbles brother - Kit - passed away just a few years later, in 1947, leaving John the only member of his family still alive.”

Records show that John married his sweetheart Maud Stevenson in 1931. Their first child, John Thomas, was born the following year.

Maud, a farmer’s daughter from Dalton Field House at Elwick, hailed from a large family. Sadly her own would be much smaller.

“John Thomas fell ill in 1940 and died, aged just eight, at Brierton Lane Isolation Hospital on September 10,” said Susan.

“The family were living at 30 Mozart Street at the time, and must have been distraught. There was a lot of TB and diptheria at the time.

“Luckily, their only other child at the time - Christopher - survived, and they went on to have daughter Jean in September 1948.”

It is believed John survived until 1973, while Maud lived until 1987. Christopher died in 2006, aged about 63, while Jean was just 54 at her death.

“Although none of the original owners of the books are alive, I’m sure their family would find them interesting,” said Susan.